How many times have you had to warn your visiting friends to stay far, far away from Radegast Hall & Biergarten lest they get blasted with barf by some weekend warrior who doesn’t understand boots are made to be shared, not enema’d? Well, as of 6 p.m. tonight, you can simply dismiss Radegast as the naughty, trashy cousin of Witlof and point your pals in the direction of this new, sophisticated “Flemish brasserie.”
Williamsburg’s Grand Street strip has seen some notable restaurant openings this summer (first it was James Murphy’s Four Horsemen, followed by Bill Baker’s) and Witlof (an easy on-the-American-tongue nod to witloof, a Belgian endive) is no exception. The excitement certainly has something to do with the fact that Radegast Hall owner Ivan Kohut is involved, but it’s also due to the building’s very interesting past.
The commercial space at the former bank on Grand Street at Bedford has been in disrepair for the past 40 or so years, serving intermittently as a storage space and boarded-up garbage heap until the building’s owner sold it for, you know, well over 200 times what he payed for it in the late ’70s. Sigh. Such is North Brooklyn real estate these days.
Though the space has had several different lives since it was built, it’s best known as the former home of a super shady bank that closed in 1914 after it came to light the bankers who ran the place had pocketed deposits from clients long after they knew they were done for.
But when we stopped by today, it looked like things are pretty much in order. The interior looks less inspired by the cavernous wood-happy look of traditional Flemish establishments and a bit more art nouveau. We’re loving the mural on the back wall, a roundabout bar, café-style wooden stools and small, round tables, as well as those wicker-on-wood chairs that are ubiquitous in Paris and everywhere trying to be Paris. And there are tons of tiny European details, small wooden picture frames on the wall, mosaic flooring, and baubley ceilings lamps.
As to be expected, taps include a nice selection of Belgian beers. There are the usuals like Saison Dupont and Kwak, but Witlof also carries some lesser seen libations like St. Feuillien Triple. The bottle selection has a little more room to be impressive with greats like the Duchesse De Bourgogne. Our only question is, where’s the Kriek?
The foodstuffs menu features daily specials (some more exciting than others, i.e. casserole on Tuesdays versus tartare/crudo on Mondays) in addition to salty snacks for beer drinking (olives, ravioles), charcuterie, small plates, and some hard-hitting big bites like pork belly, a burger, lamb shank, and steak frites. See everything here.
Witlof, 292 Bedford Ave., at Grand St., Williamsburg.